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The new Star Trek movie took inspiration from an unusual source: Jennifer Lawrence

And the actress isn’t even in it.

Star Trek Beyond
Sofia Boutella plays a mysterious new alien in Star Trek Beyond.
Paramount Pictures
Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Jennifer Lawrence is the biggest star in Hollywood right now. She can create buzz around a project simply by glancing at it, and her docket of films to star in grows by the day. Lawrence is now so powerful that she’s altering the makeup of movies she doesn’t even star in.

That’s what actor and screenwriter Simon Pegg revealed at a press conference for the upcoming Star Trek Beyond, the third film in the rebooted Star Trek franchise. Without spoiling the film, I can say that the characters encounter a new female alien — who appears in almost all of the marketing materials, including this poster — under unusual circumstances.

This alien is more or less a loner, fending for herself and trying to scrape together a living without much help from any sort of parental or authority figure. She bumps into the crew of the USS Enterprise, adding another prominent female character to a franchise that’s pretty guy-heavy. (As Pegg pointed out, Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is the only major woman character in the original Star Trek series.)

When Pegg and Doug Jung were writing the film, however, they and the rest of the film’s creative team struggled with what to name the newcomer.

They had taken inspiration from Lawrence’s character in Winter’s Bone, a young woman growing up in rural Kentucky who has to care for her siblings and fend for herself, all while navigating the region’s criminal underworld. (The indie film was Lawrence’s breakthrough role and earned the actress her first Oscar nomination.)

As such, Pegg and Jung started calling the character “Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.” That eventually became too unwieldy, as you’d expect — so, as Pegg tells it, “then we started calling her J. Law, and that became Jaylah.”

Which is the character’s name in the film: Jaylah. Thus does Jennifer Lawrence reach down from the firmament and bless projects she’s not even remotely involved in.

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